What I am about to write must be put in context – I have been up all night and have had only a small amount of sleep over the last 24 hours so when I look back on this post it might not be as well thought through (ha ha) as some other posts. Here goes.
Scotland has decided to stay part of the Union, for now. I blogged yesterday that I think all that has happened is that a strong platform to put independence back on the ballot paper at the General Election in May 2015 and the the Scottish election in 2016 has been created. The Westminster parties have to deliver or else a politician who is as canny as you are going to get, Alex Salmond and to a much lesser extent Nigel Farage, will eat them for breakfast. It really doesn’t matter what the Westminster politicians might say – the independence question has not been settled at all. The Vow will come back haunt them all.
Which brings us to the great leader, David Cameron, himself. This morning he has set out a timetable to fight UKIP for Tory votes, sorry major constitutional reform. He has tried to make everyone believe that the West Lothian question can be solved by William Hague in three months. It is nonsense and everyone knows that it is nonsense and the whole thing started to unravel almost straight away when William Hague was interviewed by Andrew Neil. Again and again you just have to wonder why the great and good in Westminster can’t get their head out of what hole they might have stuck it in. A quick chat won’t answer any of the profound questions facing the way that the UK is governed. The Labour side is just as divided as they seem to fear that setting up an English parliament will mean that Labour will never gain power again. How has it come to pass that one of the great parties of the UK thinks that it can’t win power in the largest country in the Union?
For me the only true way forward is this. Establish an English parliament outside of London, preferably somewhere in the North or west of England, Bristol, Nottingham or Leeds would make fine locations. The cry from the Westminster elite is that this will be another layer of expense but this, of course, is nonsense as you also move all the English only government departments out of London to these cities and sell off all the prime location sites in London to help pay for all this. This would also be a real investment in the regions and might even answer some of the questions about HS2, Heathrow and housing in London. I believe it is called rebalancing.
The parliament in London would deal only with only UK wide issues such as defence, financial stability and Foreign affairs. Each of the constituent nations of the union would send representatives to the UK parliament to hold the UK government to account on behalf of the people of the Nations of the Union. Of course we would have to decide what role, if any, the House of Lords might play in all this. Everything else would decided at the country level as well as paying for such matters they decide on. This whole settlement of course doesn’t answer the complex question of Northern Ireland but this makes the West Lothian question look like a stroll in the park. In short the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would then become the Federal Kingdom’s of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It is that simple. Which is utter nonsense it is not simple at all and there are massive pitfalls along the way, you only have to look at the problems the United States of America gets itself into when trying to decide where states rights end and federal government rights begin. What is also nonsense is to think that that all these questions can be decided on in three months by a cosy chat in a Downing Street cabinet sub committee room and have an answer by Christmas. This will take years to come to a solution and will be just as complicated as negotiating the independence of Scotland.
Scotland has shown the rest of the UK one clear thing. If you have an open process where all the questions are aired it will be heated and times divisive but it will energise people to seeing that politics matters to their lives and will be make sure that any election really counts. The current proposal really is the current regime just trying to play their old games of hoping all this will just go away. It won’t and I am sure that Alex Salmond will make sure it doesn’t next May.
Last night Sir Simon Jenkins was interviewed and he said that he didn’t think anything will change. He rightly pointed out that he didn’t think that was should happen but he felt that Westminster would try and make the whole thing go away. This morning we saw the first steps of that process and if that does happen then Cameron and the Tories will be severely damaged by UKIP whilst Labour will be have the same fate handed to them by the SNP. Somehow I don’t think that Cameron gets this, I do hope I am wrong.
One final thought. I suspect that the only major change to come out before the next election will be that 16 years olds will have the right to vote. Of course this being Westminster it will be implemented too late for it to apply to the next General Election – yet again handing another issue to Alex Salmond. However, this will be hailed as a major change to the constitution. Or is this just sleep deprivation taking? I’ll let you decide.